NEW CARLISLE — Friday night’s Class 3A Sectional 19 semifinals were both barn-burners, featuring a pair of clutch performances down the stretch.
The two games also ran the emotional gamut for area teams as Mishawaka Marian forward Katie Barnard’s go-ahead putback with 13.6 seconds remaining in the opener ended Culver Girls Academy’s season, 48-47, and Plymouth guard Haley Harrell put up all seven of her points to help her team rally back from a three-point deficit in the fourth quarter to hand South Bend St. Joseph a 32-29 defeat at New Prairie.
With the back-and-forth semis now in the books, the Lady Pilgrims will tip off against the Knights for the championship in tonight’s final, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
PLYMOUTH 32, SOUTH BEND ST. JOSEPH’S 29
Forget about all the doping in the sports headlines lately. Someone should check Haley Harrell’s blood for ice water.
The sophomore point guard was simply cold for Plymouth down the stretch Friday night, going 5-for-6 at the free throw line on her way to seven points in the fourth quarter to lift her team past St. Joe.
Her driving layup for a traditional 3-point play with 1:15 to go gave the Pilgrims their final lead of the night in a back-and-forth fourth quarter that featured five lead changes. Her quick-reaction jump ball steal when Mary Freeby’s pass from the baseline hit her in the back on the other end of the floor kept Plymouth in the lead, and her two free throws in the double bonus with just 19.6 ticks remaining pushed the Pilgrims out a three-point advantage and sealed the Indians’ fate in a reprisal for last season’s sectional semifinal loss.
“I couldn’t have done any of that without my teammates screening for me to get me open,” said Harrell. “Just focusing on my layups and taking my time like we’ve done all through practice and everybody’s rebounding for me to hit them. It was just a team effort.”
“She is a mentally tough, extremely competitive kid,” said Plymouth girls basketball Dave Duncan of his point guard. “Down the stretch she just wanted to make plays, and I think any good team’s got to have kids that want to make plays. We got the ball in her hands, we ran some ball screens for her, and she was able to get into the middle a few times. She got fouled a few times, hit some big free throws down the stretch. We want the ball in her hands.”
The nightcap was a match-up between two tough, defensive-minded teams, and neither squad was able to convert with much efficiency from the floor.
Plymouth scuffled to a 12-of-39 rate from the field but kept the game close with a strong defensive effort that held St. Joe
to 9-of-23 for the night. St. Joe led by a tentative 22-19 advantage after Brooke Juday split a pair of free throws at the start of the fourth, but Harrell’s heroics combined with 3-of-4 fourth quarter shooting from fellow sophomore starter Hunter Stevens — who finished with a team-high nine points — as the Plymouth offense finally got rolling in the fourth and the Pilgrims stole the come-from-behind win.
“I think St. Joe had something to do with that,” said Duncan of his team’s 30 percent shooting clip for the night. “They’re physical inside, and their guards are physical. When you’re playing teams like that you look at the score and you say ‘Wow, both teams struggled a little bit.’ Well they didn’t. Both teams play great defense.”
Key to the Plymouth defense was St. Joe sophomore Madeline Raster.
Duncan and company had just watched her will her team to an overtime win with a game-high 21 points against John Glenn in the early quarterfinal Wednesday night, and the Pilgrims limited her to just nine points on 3-of-7 shooting in the semifinal Friday.
“Obviously she’s the target on our scouting report, and for the most part I think we did a pretty good job on her,” said Duncan. “Late in the game we helped off a drive, and we didn’t relocated back to her and she had a big 3 that I think put them up two at that time. We just talked about what we’ve got to do to maintain. Our post kids are supposed to help on rotations, and we corrected that and we did a good job against her.”
Plymouth advances to play Mishawaka Marian in the championship tonight after Marian’s own comeback win against Culver Girls Academy in the early game Friday.
With a transition-minded offense similar to the Indians, Plymouth got a dress rehearsal for the Knights Friday, at least with respect to getting back on the defensive end.
“We talked about St. Joe’s transition game, and we’re going to have to talk about Marian’s transition game. To be honest with you I don’t think we gave up any transition against St. Joe, so I feel good about that,” Duncan said. “They like to score off of cheap baskets. And then we’ve got to figure a way to keep (Katie) Barnard out of the middle. (Diedri Mastagh), she was whacking 3s all over the place tonight. We’ve just got to locate kids and play good, hard-nosed defense.”
• PLYMOUTH 32, SOUTH BEND ST. JOSEPH’S 29
At Class 3A Sectional 19
Plymouth: 4 11 19 32
St. Joe: 3 14 21 29
PLYMOUTH (32): Lauren Tanner 7, Hunter Stevens 9, Haley Harrell 7, Allie Wright 2, Amber Redinger 2, Andria Shook 3, Kaydon Fasler 2; Totals: 12 7-12 32.
ST. JOSEPH (29): Nikki Przybyslawski 13, Catherine Raster 2, Hannah Mauch 0, Nicole Francoeur 0, Madeline Raster 9, Brooke Juday 1, Mary Freeby 4, Emily Ferro 0; Totals: 9 5-8 29.
3-pointers: Plymouth 1 (Tanner 1), St. Joe 5 (M. Raster 2, Pryzbyslawski 2, Freeby 1); Rebounding: Plymouth 22 (Redinger 8), St. Joe 20 (M. Raster 9); Turnovers: Plymouth 15, St. Joe 25; Steals: Plymouth 10 (Tanner 3, Harrell 3), St. Joe 9 (M. Raster 4); Assists: Plymouth 5 (Tanner 2, Harrell 2), St. Joe 4 (Przybyslawski 3); Fouls (fouled out): Plymouth 13 (none), St. Joseph 17 (C. Raster, Mauch).
Records: Plymouth 16-6, St. Joe 8-14
MISHAWAKA MARIAN 48, CULVER GIRLS ACADEMY 47
Sometimes the ball bounces your way, and sometimes it doesn’t.
CGA couldn’t buy a basket at the outset of its sectional semifinal with Marian, going 4-for-14 in the first frame to fall behind 17-8 at the quarter break.
After the Lady Eagles spent three quarters battling back and into the lead midway through the fourth, senior Knights forward Katie Barnard could hardly miss, knocking down 5-of-7 shots in the final stanza — including the game-winning putback with 13.6 seconds on the game clock — to finish off a 19-point performance willing her team to victory.
“We just couldn’t hit shots. How many point blank shots did we have that just rolled in and out? You knock those down and then we’re ahead and it’s a whole different game. The kids came back, they fought hard, and you can’t discredit that,” said CGA head coach Gary Christlieb.
“We just got beat, that’s just the bottom line. We can overanalyze it any way you want, but you get off to a better start, and it’s a different game. But credit them, they did what they had to do. They get off to a good start, and then they hit the shot there at the end to take the lead.”
After trailing for the better part of three quarters, the Lady Eagles took just their second lead of the night at the 4:10 stop of the fourth, when Grace Holzer’s offensive rebound and kick out to Saralena Barry on the wing resulted in a Barry 3-pointer and tenuous 43-42 CGA advantage.
After that, the two teams swapped leads five more times, the last time at the 13.6 stop as Barnard recovered her own blocked shot and put back the reeling go-ahead to push the Knights ahead, 48-47.
Barry’s triple from the wing on the other end sailed errant, and she collected her own rebound following a scrum, but there was no time to get off another shot as the buzzer sounded on a heartbreaker for CGA.
“That was a really tough play,” said Marian head coach Pat Catanzarite of the game-winner. “She gets her shot blocked, gets it back and just wills her way to the rim. But deeper than that, she willed us to win today. She’s a senior, she’s had a taste of being in the sectional championship game, and she was bound and determined that she was going to take the team on her back and we were going to find a way to get back there. It was a big time play for a big player.”
The Eagles held Barnard to just five points in the first half, including a single bucket in the first frame. But Diedri Mastagh’s trio of 3s in the period pulled CGA out into man coverage, and the Knights worked the ball with greater patience in the second half to open up driving lanes for Barnard.
“We really have three good shooters, and if they’re shooting the ball with confidence, it makes things better for Katie Barnard; it opens it up,” said Catanzarite. “The game’s still all about balance — if you’ve got the inside and the outside going, you’re going to be tough to defend. That really did get us off to a good start.”
While Barnard and Mastagh led Marian with 19 and 13 points, respectively, CGA was paced by Andrijana Cvitkovic’s game-high 21 points — following a 22-point outing against New Prairie in the sectional opener Tuesday — while Victoria Christlieb finished with 11.
The Lady Eagles close their season at 13-9 and bid goodbye to a quartet of seniors.
Melissa Binford battled her way through knee injuries to earn a starting spot with her team late in the year. Barry made big strides from her junior to her senior season to become one of CGA’s best ball-handlers. Rita Zambon’s leadership on the floor helped guide her team to a four-game win streak headed into Friday’s contest. But the outgoing player with the largest impact on the floor was Cvitkovic, a mobile 6-2 import from Kraljevica, Croatia, ranked 13th in the nation at her position by ESPN Hoopgurlz headed into the University of Dayton next year and recently named to Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s Top 100.
“What do you say about Andrijana? Clearly and Indiana All-Star candidate if not an Indiana All-Star player, and it would be a travesty if she’s not,” Christlieb said. “She’s going to go down as probably at this point one of the two best players in the CGA basketball program along with Patricia Babcock. You don’t get kids that come along like that very often, and when you do it’s just a pleasure to coach kids with that kind of ability.
“This senior group did a nice job. We fought through some injuries during the year, and they hung together and figured out what we needed to do to be successful and did that. What more can you ask out of a group of kids? It’s a difficult loss, but they fought back and it took character. We had a shot; that’s all you can ask for.”
• MISHAWAKA MARIAN 48, CULVER GIRLS ACADEMY 47
At Class 3A Sectional 19
Score by quarters
Marian: 17 29 36 48
CGA: 8 21 32 47
MARIAN (48): Erin Guzicki 5, Katie Barnard 19, Ashlee Taylor 4, Diedri Mastagh 13, Nicky Del Prete 4, Sarah Hansen 0, Kiersten Reed 4; Totals: 20 5-9 48.
CGA (47): Victoria Christlieb 11, Andriana Cvitkovic 21, Melissa Binford 2, Saralena Barry 3, Rita Zambon 2, Allison Baker 7, Grace Holzer 1, Helen Weinberg 0; Totals: 19 7-10 47.
3-pointers: Marian 3 (Mastagh 3), CGA 2 (Barry 1, Baker 1); Rebounding: Marian 26 (Barnard 13), CGA 38 (Cvitkovic 22); Turnovers: Marian 14, CGA 19; Steals: Marian 8 (Barnard 3, Taylor 3), CGA 10 (Christlieb 7); Assists: Marian 5 (Barnard 2), CGA 12 (Christlieb 6); Fouls: Marian 8, CGA 10.
Records: CGA 13-9 (final), Marian 14-8.